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Mayawati out?

The biggest election this week was not Russia's presidential contest or tonight's Super Tuesday vote in the United States, it was India's state elections, particularly the contest in Uttar Pradesh which, with 200 million residents, would be the world's fifth largest country -- slightly larger than Brazil -- if it were independent. 

There are two big storylines coming out of the elections. The first was the setback dealt to India's ruling Congress Party, and possible future prime minister Rahul Gandhi: 

Political analysts said the Congress Party’s poor showing in Uttar Pradesh raised doubts about its ability to win re-election at the federal level in 2014 as well as Mr. Gandhi’s prospects as a future prime minister. In New Delhi, Congress governs with the support of several regional parties, at least one of which has publicly threatened to withdraw its support over policy differences.

“Congress needs more coalition partners to retain power in 2014,” said C.P. Bhambhi, a professor and the former dean of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “It will be difficult for Congress to repeat the 2009 election performance.”

But the bigger shock may be the ouster of UP Chief Minister Mayawati, the flamboyant and controversial "Dalit Queen" who has been in office since 2007:

The firebrand chief minister of Uttar Pradesh was set to lose office after her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) fell to a projected 86 seats in the 403-seat state assembly after winning 206 in the previous election.

Mayawati, 56, who only uses one name, rose from a community of "untouchables" (now known as Dalits) at the bottom of the Hindu caste structure to rule over Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India with a population of 200 million.

The likely next chief minister of UP will be Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi party, an aging former wrestler and onetime defence minister of India who has held the chief minister job twice before, trading back and forth with his arch-rival Mayawati since 1991. Though as the New York Times notes, he may just be keeping the seat warm for his son:

Mr. Varshney and other analysts said the big winner in Uttar Pradesh was Akhilesh Singh Yadav, who like Mr. Gandhi is the relatively young heir of a political family.

Mr. Yadav, 39, transformed the image of the Samajwadi Party, which his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, founded and still leads, from thuggish and backward to progressive. In the recent campaign, the younger Mr. Yadav promised free tablet and laptop computers to high school and college students; in earlier elections, the party had pledged to remove computers from government offices to create more jobs.

Mayawati's defeat is being touted by some as a defeat for caste-based politics -- though it would be a mistake to caste a perrenial comeback-artist like Mayawati out for good. 

STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images

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Who's congratulating Putin?

For the most part, the reactions from other world leaders to Vladimir Putin's election win are breaking down about how you'd expect them to. 

The U.S. State Department issued a lukewarm statement congratulating "the Russian people on the completion of the presidential elections" and noting some improvements in the electoral process, but never mentioning Putin by name. Mitt Romney was not quite so subtle, calling the election "a mockery of the democratic process."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy congratulated Putin and encouraged him "to press ahead with the work of democratic and economic modernization." Foreign Minister Alain Juppe played bad cop, telling reporters, "The election has not been exemplary. That is the least you can say. The OSCE made significant criticisms."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has had numerous ups and downs with Putin over the years, called the president elect "to wish him success in the coming time in office, success above all also in the implementation and managing of the big tasks," according to a spokesperson. 

David Cameron spoke with Putin on the phone about "stronger relationship" despite "differences and areas of concern" but apparently avoiding directly congratulating him. 

China has wholeheartedly endorsed Putin's victory -- fraud charges be damned: "China respects the choice of the Russian people and supports Russia in taking a development mode that fits its own domestic situation," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin. Liu added that President Hu Jintao had personally called Putin to offer his congratulations. 

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have also issued congratulatory statements.  Belarus's Aleksandr Lukashenko and Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovych -- to traditional Putin allies who have had a somewhat strained relationship with him of late -- were also quite positive. 

Syria's Bashar al-Assad was quite complimentary, which given the diplomatic cover he's been given by the Kremlin recently, is really the least he could do

"President Bashar al-Assad has sent a telegram to Russian premier Vladimir Putin for his victory in the presidential election," SANA said.

"He offered in his name and that of the Syrian people his sincere congratulations for his remarkable election," it added.

A telegram?

Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images